Is legalized sports betting coming to Maryland?

Towards the end of 2019, Maryland State Senator Chris West put forth Senate Bill 58, which would legalize retail and perhaps online sports betting for Maryland residents. The senate anticipated taking up this measure in early in 2020 only to have the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on most legislation that was not of an urgent nature. It is only in the last few weeks that legislators have been trying to get Senate Bill 58 on the ballot in time for the November elections.

As a reminder, here is a summary of the bill as provided by the LegiScan organization:

“Providing that the General Assembly may authorize, by law, the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to issue certain sports wagering licenses; providing that a license may be issued only to the holder of a video lottery operation license or a license for thoroughbred racing or harness racing; declaring the intent of the General Assembly that State revenues generated by the proposed sports wagering be used for dedicated purposes including public education; submitting the Act to a referendum of the qualified voters of the State; etc.”

If this legislation were to make it on the ballot and get approved by a majority of the state’s registered voters, residents could have the opportunity to bet on sports by the early part of December.

The Motivation to Move Forward

At this point, it is hard to determine which way the sports gambling winds are blowing in Maryland. Part of the problem has to do with a lack of urgency. Since Maryland gamblers currently have access to sports betting and online slots like Gclub slot by just crossing state borders into Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, they aren’t overly concerned with the sports betting legalization process.

By the way, there is a group of interested parties sitting on the sidelines, pulling for this legislation to get its day. That would be the six brick and mortar casinos that are currently operating in the state. Clearly, all six operators would be first in line to secure the proper bookmaking licensing from the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission.

These six operators include Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, MGM National Harbor Casino, Maryland Live! Casino, Rocky Gap Resort Casino, Ocean Downs Casino and Hollywood Casino Perryville. It is noteworthy that Maryland Live! has already signed a partnership agreement with FanDuel to provide bookmaking services.

Moving forward, it is not clear if Bill 58 will actually make it onto the November ballot. Even if it does and passes, sports bettors would likely have to wait until sometime in early 2021 before bookmakers would be able to get licensing and start taking bets. If the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens were in line to play in the February Super Bowl, maybe that would be the motivation the state and bookmakers would need to move things forward quickly.

This much is clear. Bookmakers in adjacent states (Pennsylvania & West Virginia) are setting monthly records for sports betting and online casino revenue in the wake of COVID-19. They are in no hurry to see competition coming forward in Maryland. For the state’s part, there is tax revenue on the table there for the taking. Stay tuned.

 

https://www.eyeonannapolis.net/2020/09/is-legalized-sports-betting-coming-to-maryland/